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a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

BROKEN


Slice of Life Tuesdays are hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS


with thanks to Natalie Merchant (the lines to the right, in italics, are borrowed from a song she wrote that was performed by 10,000 Maniacs: Gun Shy)


I saw him standing—proud—in army fatigues at the end of the hallway.

I always knew that you would
 take yourself far from home
as soon as, as far as you could go.

The hallway had almost cleared of students.
I was waiting for the last few stragglers to make their way to the stairwell.

He was leaning on a cane. 
Injured.
Broken.
By the quarter-inch cut of your hair
and the Army issue green,
I can tell where you've been.

The hallway was silent.
His grandmother hovered beside him,
her coat gathered in an otherwise empty embrace.

He had come home.
Injured.
Broken.

He was there to surprise his sister.

His sister’s math teacher glowed—impressed
by his maturity,
awed by his commitment.

Her social studies teacher shook his hand—a thank you
for his sacrifice.

there was soldier's blue blood
 streaming inside your veins.

They saw a soldier.
I saw a student.

He waved. 
I froze.
Emotions choked me into stillness.

Reason told me to walk towards him.
“Don’t make him hobble halfway down the hall,”
said a voice from some unlit corner of my head.
“You are not prepared to face him.  What will you say?”
cautioned a voice from the far reaches of my heart.

So now you are one of the brave few,
it's awful sad we need boys like you.

“It’s good to see you!”
It sounded forced
even though the sentiment was genuine.

“It’s good to be back.”
It came out slow
as if he had to be careful, thoughtful,
to get the words out clearly.

“What happened?” my heart cried out.

“Stuff,”
the hollow voice of a soldier answered.

The logical part of my brain took over
wondering what kind of idiot
would ask an injured soldier to recount whatever awful experience
had brought him to this moment.

“What kind of stuff?” my heart cried out once again,
dissatisfied with the world that had broken this student.

His grandma rescued us.
“He’s not allowed to say.
He signed papers agreeing to keep quiet.”

My heart cried out.

“I am on the front lines.
I kill people.
It’s my job.
I like my job.
I like my blue cord.
I can walk. 
I am just using the cane because I am stiff
from being on a plane for so long.”

Stock and barrel,
 safety, trigger,
here's your gun.

My brain quieted the fury in my heart,
“Where were you?”

“I am done with basic training.
I am at my post now.”

“Where is that?”

“Texas.”

“So, did this happen domestically?”

“Domestic?  Not really. 
Terrorist.
But, yeah, it happened here.”

There is a world outside of this room
and when you meet it promise me
you won't meet it with your gun taking aim.

My thoughts unable to battle my heart any longer,
I turned to his grandma.
“I can’t imagine what you are going through.”

“The thing about those papers that bothers me,” she confided,
“is if he can’t talk about what happened,
what is our government doing that it shouldn’t be doing?”

“Oh, I know exactly what they’re doing.”

It was the authoritative voice
of a soldier.
Cold.
Injured.
Broken.
Loyal.
“But I like my blue cord too much to tell.”

So now does your heart pitter pat
 with a patriotic song
when you see the stripes of Old Glory waving?

“I am going back.”

My head and my heart finally joined forces,
“Thank you for what you are doing.”

“It’s nothing. 
It’s just a job.
I like my job.”

“It’s more than a job.
It’s a calling.
It’s a sacrifice,
and not just because of the injury.”

He ducked his head.
Humble.
Not a soldier.
A boy.

Before he got in the elevator,
he reached out to give me a hug.
My student.

they're so good at making soldiers
but they're not so good at making men.

The elevator door closed.
I turned away.
Broken.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

MY BEATLES


Slice of Life Tuesdays are hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS
Bill Maher once said that dogs are the only beings that will unconditionally treat us like we are The Beatles every time we walk in the door.  It’s so true.


As soon as I opened the car door and stepped into the garage I could hear his barking.  I tried to hurry through the process of gathering my bags from the car just to get inside and return his greeting.  Roosevelt (Roo for short) is a yorkie-poo who is not known for patience. 

I opened the door from the garage, walked through the laundry room, and opened the door into the hallway.  Roo jumped up and pushed off of my thigh, Flashdance-style.  As happy as I was to see him, his positive energy is contagious, I immediately felt alarmed.  Where was his sister?

Although Aurora, our miniature schnoodle, doesn’t quite match Roo’s superfan intensity, she is usually a wiggling bundle of happy waiting at the door by his side.  Usually.

A few weeks ago, during a routine trip to the vet, we discovered Aurora has heartworm.  It is potentially fatal and even the treatment process can be fatal in some cases.  She is going to be uncomfortable for the duration of a month’s worth of medicine to be capped off by a series of two shots of very dangerous doses of the final potential cure.  Although we caught it at the earliest possible stage, the outcome is uncertain.  To make matters worse, it is directly my fault for not regularly giving her the preventive pills that are sitting in my cabinet, untouched.

Without even pausing to drop my bags, I rushed past Roo into the family room, bracing myself for imminent disaster.  My eyes quickly scanned the area rug, the couch, the recliner.  No Aurora. 

Finally, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a fuzzy butt wiggling frantically side to side at the back door silently pleading for it to open.  I rushed over and delivered relief. 

As soon as the sliding door was closed behind both dogs, I burst into tears.  The stress of the past moment had built up pressure behind my eyes.   I needed the release. 

This time, I waited on the other side of the door to smother them with kisses, petting, and superfan squeals of joy.  

the insert from our Christmas cards this year, featuring the Beatles

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

WHAT I HEAR TONIGHT


Slice of Life Tuesdays are hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS
The whirring of the washer spinning,
the clunk of clothes tossing around,
and around in the dryer.

The breaths of the sleeping heartbeat,
 lying at my side.

The sighs of the heartbeat lying across the room
trying to find comfort amidst illness.

The ticking of the wedding-gifted clock on the wall.

The cozy whoosh of warm air through the vents. 

The sound of a wooden stretch,
our antique dining room table settling.

The click of a mouse upstairs in my husband’s office,
an occasional creak of his desk chair leaning back.

The hum of the refrigerator,
a reminder of lunches yet to be made.

The silence of clothes patiently waiting to be ironed,
book pages longing to be turned,
blankets wishing to be snuggled.

Sounds of routine,
home,
comfort.